“Kid-adult” fusion trend gathers pace in food industry

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 3rd February 2009

Independent restaurant operators in the US are leading an emerging “kid-adult” fusion trend by promoting adult-style offerings to kids in greater numbers. Their menus target kids with smaller portions of premium steaks, fresh fish, locally-sourced healthy foods and bolder ethnic flavours that are usually the domain of adult palates.

These are the findings of the 2009 Kids’ Marketing & Menu Report released by foodservice consultants Technomic.

“The ability to develop menu offerings around a local, organic or natural culinary focus is a trademark of independent concepts that operate in the higher-end, fine-dining realm,” Darren Tristano, Executive Vice-President at Technomic. “Parents who value these attributes in food are beginning to steer their children away from mac-and-cheese and chicken finger entrees in favour of fresh seafood, baked or grilled chicken, organic vegetables and premium cuts of meat. This trend has notable trickle-down potential for the Top 250 chains.”

Among menus of the Top 250 chains, pasta, sandwiches and chicken are the most popular children’s lunch and dinner entrees, the report found. Dips, such as barbecue, honey mustard and sweet-and-sour sauces, were often used to impart flavour and differentiate offerings from the competition. Healthy offerings were on the rise in children’s menus, with a surge in the number of listings of vegetables and fruits, healthy beverages and smoothies, and items described as natural or organic. There is also a growing preference for bolder, spicier flavours like teriyaki, chilli and chipotle. Children are clearly beginning to broaden their accepted flavours beyond those found in traditional American fare.

Some of the most common tactics used by limited-service chains to attract families with children are the seprate menus for kids’ combo meals, availability of toys and prizes, websites with online activities and birthday clubs and play areas. While full-service chains often promote “kids eat free” nights, birthday clubs and family-sized to-go meals. Seventy-eight per cent of the Top 250 chain restaurants now have menus specifically for children, with the occurrence higher for full-service restaurants (88.1%) than for limited-service outlets (70.5%).

The survey follows previous indications of a broadening of diets amongst Gen Y and teenagers and suggestions parents are now exerting greater control over what their children eat.